BEIS minister Greg Hands is quickly becoming a star performer at the government despatch box. After his last showing in January rebutting the opposition’s VAT motion, today he tore Ed Miliband a new one over his own energy record in government after the ex-Labour leader said the Tories needed to get on with a “green energy sprint”.
“We heard about the ‘green energy sprint’. It’s absolutely extraordinary, since he was the Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change in 2010 we have increased the proportion of our electricity generation coming from renewables from 7% to 43%. Now in any normal terms that would be a sprint, but it’s also a marathon in the sense we have done that over a period of 12 years – almost a sextuppeling Mr Speaker if I might.”
“He talks about nuclear, Mr Speaker, but he will remember the 1997 Labour manifesto when they said they saw no economic case for new nuclear power stations, and now he has the cheek Mr Speaker to come to the dispatch box today and urge we get on with nuclear!”
The debate was sparked by an urgent question from Lee Anderson on fracking, in which the minister did not go any further than the already-stated position that Cuadrilla is perfectly within its right to request a delay to the concreting of gas wells. It may not be necessary for the government to u-turn on this, however.
Today it emerges a new gas field under the North Sea has produced its first gas just off East Anglia, with more such developments on the way to help boost the country’s energy security. The gas was secured by IOG, an offshore exploration and production company who say gas from its Blythe well started flowing into the UK gas grid at the weekend, and its second is set to start producing gas within days. Could this, plus Boris’s trip to Saudi, be enough to prevent the government having to u-turn on fracking…
Labour have brought forward an Opposition Debate this morning on the subject of Value Added Tax on household energy bills, where they will call for the government to remove VAT on energy in the face of rising bills – incidentally, something only legally possible because of Brexit. This is quite some U-turn.
According to research from the Taxpayers’ Alliance, the Climate Change Levy (2001) and Renewables Obligation (2002) took £14.5 billion out of bill payers’ pockets under the Labour government. Ed Miliband was the last Labour Energy and Climate Change Secretary. The Tories have continued the trend, by upping the tax take on energy bills with green levies set to hit over £18 billion a year. These new taxes were introduced and by Labour…
As Energy Secretary, Miliband justified the added costs to business by saying we should sacrifice economic growth to cut emissions:
“We can either lose three months or six months of economic growth, for the world, and act, or we face this huge risk in relation to the cost of adapting to climate change”.
Between 1997 and 2010, the average domestic gas bill went up by 105%, from £275 to £564, and the average electricity bill went up 47%, from £323 to £474. (Source DECC, Quarterly energy prices, table 2.2.1, December 2014).
The TaxPayers’ Alliance’s James Roberts says:
“It seems eco-preaching politicians are finally wising up to the fact that higher green taxes mean higher energy bills. Now they’ve got until April to do something about it, before taxpayers are hammered by rising bills and other tax hikes.”
Labour may have finally seen the light on energy taxes. Has the government?